He was a champion of the sort of investigative journalism that, in his words, has “the kind of impact that moves peoples’ hearts and their minds, that stirs their sense of justice, and changes the rules and the laws, to make our society a better place.”Clark Davey, one of the great newspapermen and among the few who rose from a small-town reporter’s desk to managing editors’ offices and publishers’ boardrooms in the largest papers across the country, died Monday in Ottawa. He was 90.“He was far-sighted and funny, and cared deeply about journalists and journalism,” says Lucinda Chodan, editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette, who arrived there as an arts reporter in 1984, a year into Davey’s tenure as publisher. “You can see that in the incredible role he played in founding the Michener Awards Foundation and fostering great journalism in Canada.“The fact that he was managing editor of the Globe and Mail and publisher in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver shows his versatility and his great track record. When he was at a news organization, things got better.”Russ Mills, whose two tours of duty as publisher of the Ottawa Citizen sandwiched Davey’s, described Davey as “a legendary figure” in journalism, whose breadth of experience made his counsel regularly sought by other publishers and editors.Davey followed the news closely, right up to the end. According to Mills, Davey attended weekly round-table lunches at the Rideau Club, and at last week’s, for example, was active and up-to-date discussing the SNC-Lavalin file.Davey was born in 1928 in Chatham, Ont. His career might have taken a completely different arc had his poor vision not kept him from attending Royal Roads Military College in B.C. He was heartbroken after failing his medical, but an English teacher told him that people would pay him to write. So he enrolled in the first journalism degree course taught at University of Western Ontario, graduating in 1948 and joining the newsroom of the Chatham Daily News.There, he worked under Richard “Dic” Doyle, but moved to Kirkland Lake when the Thomson newspaper chain made him editor-in-chief of the Northern Daily News. His time there was brief, however, as his girlfriend, Joyce Gordon, issued him an ultimatum: Northern Ontario or me. He chose her: they married in September 1952.In the meantime, he joined the newsroom of the Globe and Mail, where his mentor Doyle had been working for a year.As a reporter with the Globe, Davey covered national and international affairs, including the Suez Canal crisis, the St. Lawrence Seaway project and the cancellation of the Avro Arrow program. During the 1957 federal election campaign, he recognized that Tory leader John Diefenbaker was gaining momentum and might actually win, and convinced his editors to allow him to stay with the Chief’s campaign for 40 days.
Clark Davey, former publisher of the Montreal Gazette, displaying a mock-up of the paper’s new Sunday edition in 1988.
Bill Grimshaw /
The Canadian Press
When Doyle became editor of the Globe in 1963, he chose Davey as his managing editor, and, according to Mills, the two raised the broadsheet’s reputation from that of a local paper to a national one. Davey was managing editor for 15 years before joining the Vancouver Sun in 1978. He was publisher there until 1983, when he took over at the Gazette. He was publisher of the Citizen from 1989 to 1993. He was also president and chair of The Canadian Press, and co-founder and president of the Michener Awards Foundation that oversees the country’s most prestigious journalism prize.“He was the true journalist of journalists,” says Kim Kierans, journalism professor at University of King’s College in Halifax and Michener Foundation board member. “He told me when I last saw him in November, ‘If we’re not providing the encouragement for journalism organizations and journalists within them to do the journalism that matters, then we’re in trouble as a democracy.’“He was also a lovely man, smart and sparkling … with incredible enthusiasm for the business and its future.”According to Mills, Davey, who in 2002 led a protest on the steps of the Ottawa Citizen after Mills was fired for running an editorial critical of then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, was known as tough and gruff, “but deep down he was a really kind and thoughtful person, and a very good friend who was always fair to people. But if you didn’t know him, he could be intimidating.”And although he called the shots on the job, it was Joyce who ruled the home roost. According to son Ric, his father only stopped the presses twice — once while at the Globe, when Joyce called him to report that she and Ric thought they had just seen a UFO.“That was the kind of pull she had over him,” says Ric.Clark Davey is survived by his wife, Joyce; brother Kenneth George; children Ric, Kevin and Clark Jr.; and grandchildren Jason, Nicole, Michael, Kira, Stephen and Christian.ALSO IN THE NEWS:No more extensions in LeBreton mediation, Heritage Minister saysFederal public servants, stressed over pay problems, set to rally in Ottawa on third Phoenix anniversaryAnalysis: City of Ottawa leaving it entirely up to other governments to fund future LRT email@example.com